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Hello,

Welcome to an exciting new year of HomeLink!

We began 2011 with the launch of our new HomeLink USA website.  We hope you find our new web pages more aesthetically pleasing and easier to navigate. Our new website has also improved our Internet presence bringing more visitors and new members to HomeLInk worldwide!

For those of our members who did not receive our email announcing the new website due to spam or whatever issue was at hand, our new website address is:  www.homelink.org/usa  

Please update your Favorites or Bookmarks to reflect our new web address.  Our email address remains the same at:  us@homelink-usa.com

The last section in this issue of HLC is called Survey Comments, Suggestions & Answers, which addresses items and issues brought up most frequently by you in our recent survey.

This was our first formal survey and we thank those who participated. The results were quite interesting.  We were particularly pleased to learn that 94% of you were happy or very happy with our customer service and support.  Just 2% of you were unhappy and if this applies to you, please let us know what we can do better - we'll do all we can to help.

Please let us know if you would like a to see the complete results to the questions we asked you and we'll be happy to send them to you.

The comment and answer section in this issue is only a partial list of the issue we want to address.  Therefore, we plan to send special, monthly newsletters addressing these issues until we've covered them all.

Kind Regards,
Karl & Katie Costabel
HomeLink USA


HomeLink USA News



Just a Reminder...

Update Your Listings...
We frequently receive comments about member's listings that still contain dates from previous years.  Further, visitors viewing our listings through the free database search tend to think these listings are not current members of HomeLink.

Detailed instruction for updating your listing as well as uploading new photos can be found at our website.  The "Member Help" link is found under "US Functions" at the left side of the Database Main Page after logging in.


Great Photo Idea!
"...As long-time members (1985 --) and frequent users (~9 exchanges each year in the recent past) we have noticed a small change that we really appreciate.  Some members have begun to include pictures of themselves in their photo gallery.  It is really nice to have a face to go with all the correspondence that usually occurs in advance of an exchange.  Also, we do a two-page photo album spread on each exchange and include a photo of the exchange partners - the personal photos from the HomeLink site are very helpful.
Our best,
Joie and Syd Galloway, US03473..."



Media Focus...
Media Links:

1.  Design New England Article   November/December 2010

2.  TRAVEL IN MEXICO

The correspondence below is from a HomeLink member in Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico.  He wants us to get the word out about the misconception with travel in Mexico...


He writes, "...There is a great deal of mis-information about travel in Mexico...The violence in this country is up near the border where there is a struggle for territory (and involves gang members, not tourists).

Our requests for exchanges this year number about nine. Normally we have several each month. WE EVEN HAD A CANCELLATION.  Never happened before...May have been the economy, but more likely an unfounded fear of travel to Mexico...
Below is one of a few positive articles that have started to appear. Meanwhile media outlets...continue to carry damaging stories that many times are not exactly correct..."

He has further written to us, stating..."There is some terrible violence in Mexico. NONE of this in the tourist areas. We have some problems in Michaocan, but they are centered in the hot beds of the drug wars. This does NOT include, Uruapan, Patzcuaro or our lovely capital Morelia."

ARTICLE:
LA Times Article on Mexico Travel


Member Stories...
We often receive emails from members telling us about their wonderful home exchange experiences.  We would very much like to hear about yours and include them in HLC.
Please send your stories to us@homelink-usa.com and let us know if it would be OK to include your name.

Below is a story from our member, Ann.  Thanks, Ann, for sending us your story.

"...Be careful what you wish for, as my grandmother wisely said.  This is the story of our first home exchange experience, which was wonderful for us.  

We have always wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand, but every form of travel was too expensive and often too sketchy and limited.  Friends encouraged us to try home exchanging.  I figured if we were going that far, spending that much on airfare, and traveling for so long (31 hours in transit for our first stop), we ought to do it thoroughly.  I decided to visit 5 cities consecutively over a 3-month period.  My husband agreed it made sense (we've been married a long time and he is well trained).

I started seeking the exchanges in the cities we wanted 18 months in advance, figuring it would take a lot of time to line them all up.  In fact, it did not take long at all.  Friends with exchange experience advised me to stay in email contact with each of our exchange partners to continue their enthusiasm.  In doing this I became friends with all 5 correspondents (it always seems to be only one half of the couple who does this).

As the date of our journey neared, I lamented that we would never get to meet these new friends.  Then my grandmother's advice kicked in.  The first couple, in Adelaide, could not come because he had a family obligation.  The second couple, in Melbourne, could not come, because she was on chemo.  The third couple, in Sydney actually came!!   The fourth couple, in Christchurch, turned out not to be a couple at all but a woman and her friend Shayne (who I assumed was a man and her husband).  
They had a falling out and the woman decided she had to go off to Adelaide to help her son move since his partner had just kicked him out!  The 5th couple, in Auckland, felt as I did about meeting each other, and returned 2 days early so we could spend some time together.

Nobody cancelled our visit.  Adelaide stayed with a friend from childhood in the neighborhood and spent lots of time with us, including: taking us to block parties and barbies in the neighborhood, plus Christmas dinner with her family.  Melbourne stayed with us for four days (big house), went off for a week then returned to spend the balance of the time with us.  They have become friends for life and we email at least weekly.  We are still working out when they will visit us (we have a big house, too). Christchurch stayed with a friend for 2 days and introduced us to many of her friends and showed us around her beautiful city.  So, as far as we are concerned, the best part of the trip was meeting all our hosts,  and looking forward in the future to them visiting us!!

 Since that time we have done 4 other exchanges, and ironically got to meet 3 of our exchange partners due to other strange situations.  We are committed to home exchanging as the best way to travel, but I don't expect this trend to continue (I mean meeting our partners).  Too bad.  We may go for hospitality exchanges instead!!..."

                     
Helpful Hints...

HomeLink members just outside of New York City sent us some great advice to consider before any exchange...

"... Questions I usually ask when trading: Do I need to bring a hair drier? laundry soap? dishwasher detergent? hand soap? Can we access the internet, use the computer, and make local phone calls? Is there the name of a doctor or a hospital nearby in case of an emergency?

I would suggest that it would be a hospitable thing to do to provide a basket with shampoo, hair drier, lotion, bandages, burn medicine, (sunburn) talc powder, small personal items that could be used during the visit. Sometimes tourists get blisters from walking, and one guest here in NY got a really bad spring sunburn. A jar of instant coffee and/or tea bags is also good to have on hand if you come home tired and don't really plan to fix a meal."

 

                                                      HomeLink International News

 

Upcoming Events Worldwide...
This issue of HLC brings a special invitation from Annalisa, our HomeLink Italy Counterpart.
The link to the menu and costs (found within the actual invitation below) does not show any costs so I inquired with Annalisa about this and her reply is below.
“Dear Katie, the cost is 45 Euros per person...The cost includes lunch and the visit to the castle. HomeLinkers will pay directly at the castle, as we did in Treviso...So far there are over 70 bookings and people are arriving from everywhere. Please inform your subscribers to ask Elisabetta Ceccanti (in cc) in case they need (specific help that is not answered by the invitation) She is doing a wonderful job. Her email address is: ceccanti.paolo@tiscali.it There are B&Bs from 25/30 Euros per night and also hotels in the area. About tours: we will plan something later on.... there will also be buses from Pisa airport when we have schedules and names etc etc...step by step
Thanks. Annalisa

Annalisa's Formal Invitation
I would like to invite you to the eighth Homelink National Meeting, which is also the SECOND HOMELINK INTERNATIONAL MEETING
It will take place on 12th June 2011 in the majestic landscape
of Lari (Pisa)

After the great success of previous events, Homelinkers from all over the world will again meet in Italy.
Just like in the Carbonera meeting of June 2010 (Here the pictures of the last event), you will be able to personally meet Homelink members and organizers. This is a wonderful opportunity for the ones who were unable to attend the previous meetings. After Veneto, in Treviso, this time we will move to Central Italy. On this occasion we will be guests of at the magical Vicari Castle in Lari, in the middle of this ancient medieval village (a few kms from Pisa), already populated in Etruscan times.  In the company of skilled guides _ speaking English and German - you will discover history and legend linked to the castle. At the end of the visit, we will have lunch inside the castle.

- USEFUL INFORMATION -
About Vicari's Castle in Lari:
The Official Site Gallery and history
___________________
How to reach Lari:
For those_ who arrive by plane:
From Pisa, it is possible organize a
bus to Lari. If you are interested, you
have to give me an OK ahead of time,
so I can arrange all and tell you the
cost.
For those_ who arrive by car:
all the details
___________________
Accomodation:
In addition to the Homelinkers available to host, in the place there are B&Bs and farm holidays, which offer discounts for this special event. Here the list.
___________________

Here you will find the menu and cost of the day. It will be a very interesting meeting for several reasons and I invite you not to miss it. Feel free to contact me for any information you may need.

_________________________________________________________________________________________
HomeLink Italia agree to the Tourism Ethical Code of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) HomeLink Italia di Annalisa Rossi - P.IVA 03952250268 - Viale P. Frassinetti 84, 31046 Oderzo (TV) Tel/Fax: 0422 815575 - info@homelink.it - www.homelink.it

 

More Upcoming Events Worldwide...
NEW ZEALAND
Rugby worldcup 2011
For the latest information, please go to... New Zealand World Cup Rugby 2011

ENGLAND
Summer Olympics 2012
Our HomeLink UK Organizer is setting up a registry of their HomeLink members' homes near Olympic 2012 venues. Once they have a significant number of members on this list, they will let us know and we will pass this valuable information on to you.


Survey Comments, Questions & Answers:
Below is the first installment of our special, monthly newsletter addressing the many topics that were brought to our attention most frequently from our survey.

If your specific questions/comments have not been addressed and you would like to further discuss them with us, please don't hesitate to contact us.


COMMENT:  RENTAL VS EXCHANGE: "We are very pleased with HomeLink... some members use HomeLink to advertise rental properties, which is inappropriate and not in the spirit of home exchange. I think members should be encouraged to turn in members who behave this way."

ANSWER
Replying to offers for a non-monetary home exchange with offers to rent is expressly prohibited in our HomeLink Terms and Conditions.

Please let us know when you receive these offers so we can inform those members accordingly, instructing them to set up their home in the rental section if this is their intention.

This issue has been coming up more and more over the past few months.  Fortunately, thanks to our members alerting us, we were able to shut down rental scams in a matter of a few days after they had joined.  We appreciate your vigilance in keeping us informed.  



COMMENT:  MEDIATION SERVICE
"Our experiences have been mixed when it comes to the quality of the homes. Your web site does not indicate whether the housekeeping condition of the exchange property is acceptable. I am not sure how you would provide this info but the last two exchanges we arranged ended up being lower quality experiences than our first...Our second exchange...the house looked...fine on the web site and the location and neighborhood were great, but the housekeeping was deplorable. Not clean, messy, household services did not work well...we went out and bought our own sheets for the....etc...

ANSWER:  Of course, the premise of home swapping is one of trust and we pride ourselves on the high standards our members have continued to meet over the past 57 years.

In the rare and unfortunate event a particular home's listing does not accurately represent the appearance and condition of the home, we encourage our members to contact their respective HomeLink Organizer.  That enables us to look into the matter and hopefully thwart any future negative home exchange experience involving that particular member.

We have a formal procedure in place for handling these types of issues and, of course, use the utmost discretion when looking into the matter at hand.

Although, we are unable to control these types of problems before they happen, especially if a member is intent on misrepresenting their home, our formal complaint procedure enables us to make sure the member is held accountable and appropriate action is taken.

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